Foursquare is one of the biggest mobile-first companies. Founded in 2009 by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai, it has been sitting pretty with more than $70 million in funding and a $600 million valuation.But the local check-in app has never been very focused on generating revenue — until now.
This summer, Foursquare hired its first VP of Sales, Rob Wilk and Chief Revenue Officer, Steven Rosenblatt.
There are currently 10 people working with Rosenblatt in sales support, sales strategy and account management, and he’s still hiring.
“We’ve received tons of inbound from agencies, we just didn’t have the bandwidth or the team to handle it before,” Rosenblatt told us when we swung by Foursquare for an office tour. Holger Luedorf has been running business development for a few years, but this is the first time a sales team has been instated at the startup.
One of the products Rosenblatt’s team is starting to sell are Promoted Updates, which may be Foursquare’s most promising revenue source. They operate like Google’s promoted listings or Twitter’s promoted tweets. The pay-per-action ad placements only appear when a user is searching for a venue in Foursquare’s Explore tab. Foursquare launched the pilot program with 20 merchants in July.
So far, Rosenblatt says Promoted Updates are going very well and merchants have given “really good feedback.” He says Foursquare is thinking of a lot of other ways to generate revenue too.
“We’re thinking of things that are going to be valuable for merchants that they’ll want to pay more for,” says Rosenblatt. “I truly believe in the content that’s being created. We’re in a very unique position in that what merchants create actually enhances the product. People might actually pay to get more from merchants on Foursquare.”
We asked if mobile payments are in Foursquare’s future. Rosenblatt didn’t say it’s in the works, but he didn’t deny it in the future either. He noted that Foursquare already has 700,000 specials running and a very strong partnership with Amex, which lets users redeem a per cent of purchases through Foursquare.
Rosenblatt says Foursquare waited until it had enough user data before focusing on revenue. Now it has a better Explore feature, 20 million plus users, 2.5 billion check-ins, 1 million confirmed merchant listings and 5 million check-ins per day.
“I think we’ve done it in a really smart way,” he says. “We didn’t have the data we have now one year ago. We felt now was the right time and that we could make the experience really good. Foursquare is about building great products that enhance the user’s experience and building smart products for merchants. Foursquare is a new communication platform for them. We’re just getting started.”